5 ways to develop a wise optimism mindset

Mindfulness expert and executive coach, Murray Paterson, explains how mindfulness shifts your capacity to perform at your highest, with greater efficiency and less effort, leading to sustained high performance.

June 20, 2023

Murray Paterson
Associate - Corporate Clients

Are you just coping through this pandemic rather than thriving? Are you finding the relentless tedium of lockdown and the loss of personal agency saps your energy, your enthusiasm, and your effectiveness? It is possible to create a more optimistic and hopeful perspective by resetting your habitual way of thinking and responding to the world, by enhancing the capacity of your mind through mindfulness.

Why focus on mindfulness?

The link between mindfulness and sustainable high performance is clear. A regular mindfulness practice develops your ability to focus on the object or task of choice, without distraction and in the present moment. When you are mindful, you stop wasting your time and energy with unhelpful distractions such as worrying about the future or regretting the past, focussing instead on what you are doing right now. This fundamentally shifts your capacity to perform at your highest, with greater efficiency and less effort. 

Mindfulness is a skill, and the benefits are cumulative. The longer you sustain a daily practice, the better you get at improving your capacity to attend. This comes from the building of new neural pathways and the pruning of the pathways of habitual distraction and addiction to action. As your skill improves, you become more able to sustain high levels of performance with substantially less effort. 

Why learn mindfulness now?

The ongoing challenges of the pandemic has led to increased work demands, falling optimism and mental health declines, with 89%* reporting a decline in workplace well-being since the start of the crisis.

Source: https://hbr.org/2021/02/what-covid-19-has-done-to-our-well-being-in-12-charts

A Wise Optimism Mindset is grounded in reality; it improves your ability to deal with setbacks and failures. It allows for today to feel challenging, but also enables you to focus on what's possible, igniting a sense of agency and ownership to enable us to emerge from the crisis stronger.

Here are five practical ways you can begin to develop a wise optimism mindset

1. Radical Acceptance

The ability to not make a bad thing worse. The logic of acceptance is that if a situation is within your circle of influence, then ACT. If something is outside your circle of influence, the only option is to drop the struggle and ACCEPT what is, so that you invest your energy in the things you can control and minimise distress when things don’t go to plan.

2. Meaning Making

The capacity to extract meaning from a difficult situation which requires you to shift your view from ‘why is this happening to me?’ to the wider view of ‘how can I grow from this?’. By doing this, you cultivate a deeper sense of purpose and can persevere through challenges with a sense of hope.

3. A Sense of Purpose

Shifting your attention to being of service to others enables you to move from self-orientation and self-absorption. When your concern for others trumps your concern for yourself, you become clearer about your sense of purpose and gain a greater sense of fulfilment.

4. Wise Action

When faced with external events such as the pandemic, lockdown, home-schooling, riots and even earthquakes (if you live in Melbourne), it is easy to slip into a sense of defeat and resignation. Instead, try focusing on what you can do, with your top priorities and start your day with 2/2/2:

  • 2 minutes of mindfulness to bring a sense of calm
  • 2 minutes to establish the day’s priorities
  • 2 minutes to schedule the priorities in your calendar

5. Beginner’s Mind

An invitation to consider your experience from a different perspective – a beginner’s mind – may help you to respond quite differently to occasions and events. If you let go of fixed expectations and habitual ways of thinking, and instead see the world with a sense of curiosity and openness, you may respond in a different and more equanimous way.

Would you like to learn how?

If you work in a law firm, or are a lawyer working in-house, you might like to join our four-session online program to learn mind training, mental strategies and work techniques that will help you to move towards a greater sense of calm and optimism. We will teach you how to cultivate the quality of acceptance, find meaning in adversity, prioritise what matters, and remain open to possibilities. The first session begins on Tuesday 12 October. To learn more, go to Wise Optimism. To book, click here.

More on Mindfulness and Sustainable High Performance

Found this article interesting? Listen to Murray Paterson discuss mindful, people-centric leadership on the Performance Leader podcast.

About the author

Murray Paterson has been meditating for over 40 years and has been teaching mindfulness to others in the corporate sector for over 15 years. He has a background in adult education and has applied his knowledge of meditation practice to building greater health and well-being whilst improving attention, performance and resilience.

In January 2021 Murray joined Allevi8, focussing on building 1:1 meditation mentoring programs for corporate employees who have been diagnosed with or have been identified to be at risk of developing significant physical or mental illness. This involves a programmatic approach supported by a sophisticated and flexible app underpinned by personalised meditation mentoring guidance.

Murray is also a senior consultant and facilitator for the Potential Project which provides corporate mindfulness team-based programs. This work has enabled him to directly support small and large teams to develop a consistent meditation practice, and to apply the practical benefits of mindfulness to their individual work, teamwork and workplace culture.

Previously he was Head of Learning and Development at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) a global corporate law firm, where he worked for more than 10 years before commencing his own consultancy practice Mindful Growth.

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